How can you resist?

When I was in high school, one of our favorite lunch time discussions was to cast and recast all of our friends as members of the Muppet Show. Only my character stayed the same, I was usually cast as Robin, Kermit's smaller cousin. ( Robin's gender was something of a mystery thanks to its gender neutral name.)

But I think now a much more appropriate muppet has emerged, Pepe, the new "spokes shrimp" for Long John Silver. Now I have to say there is something demented about having a shrimp, even a muppet shrimp ( although technically Pepe is a "King Prawn") do an add for Long John Silver's. The Chicken Run "Eat More Whoppers" campaign was a trifle more humane, but not by a lot. In addition, as I recall a major part of the first muppet movie was the bad guys trying to debrain Kermit so they can cut off his legs to make frog legs. I'm not sure how Henson would re-act to his muppets being used to market fast food. When I was a child there was a lot of muppet merchandising, but it was all on its own behalf. There were muppet lunchboxes, muppet pencils, kermit dolls, muppet books, and muppet albums. I don't remember there being muppet themed happy meals or the muppets endorsing the products of other companies or brands. (I was very young, so if I am wrong about this, please let me know.)

The most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, muppetational...this is what we call the muppet show

One of the saddest moments I have had as a teacher is that my students have never SEEN an episode of the muppet show nor do they even know what it is. They can't conceive of what a landmark show it was. A show with puppets that featured guest stars like Spike Milligan, Rudolf Nureyev ( doing "Swine Lake"), Joel Grey ( singing "Cabaret" of all things), Gene Kelly, Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Rodgers, and Peter Ustinov (appearing in the episode when Kermit sang "It's not easy bein' green" for the first time). Pretty serious cast for a "children's show." In addition, once a person guest starred on the Muppet Show, there were no return performances. No matter how popular, guests had a one time shot. Furthermore, Henson wanted the show to end at the height of its popularity. I often wish that SNL had adopted these principles. ( and just for the record-was it me or did Ben's face look bloated on saturday night?) All of these factors may be why I remember the Muppet Show so fondly. I do know that I can't think of any show that serves as a contemporary equivalent. ( Maybe the Simpsons?)


One of the theories I developed in grad school was that every child of my generation was emotionally scarred by one episode of the Muppet Show. Now I was a very sensitive child, extraordinarily high strung. And yet, at the end of many a night of drinking in grad school, many friends revealed that they too were scarred by the Muppet Show. Each of us had a different episode, mine was the Brooke Shields episode. The re-enactment of the Jabberwocky was terrifying. This brown weird lookin' puppet that GETS DECAPITATED AND KEEPS WALKING AND TALKING. That's just freaky. ( Later I parlayed my theory into a general theory that all people have one very bizarre childhood phobia. So far my research has proven this theory to be correct, but then again, I have weird friends.)

So how to live in a world with sell out cannibal muppets? It just seems wrong to me.

But at least now I get my own small, red headed, feisty drama queen muppet. And in typical bunni fashion his come back is often, "You are stifling me, okay?"

The Long Awaited Day 2 of Ballroom Diaries: March 5-Breakfast of Champions

I get up at seven and put on my base back-up: moisturizer, NARS liquid foundation, MAC translucent powder, Tarte cheek stain, and tinted lip balm. I left the eyes and the lips for after breakfast. I headed down in just jeans and a t-shirt.

Breakfast at a comp is always an interesting event. It's one of the few times an amateur actually gets to see professionals not only in street clothes, but without make up. I can't tell you what a true rarity it is. And it is certainly good for the ego. From the stage these women often look gorgeous: long lashes, full glittering lips, deep tans, and flushed cheeks. But seeing them at breakfast without any make up at all, not even base, one sees the puffy eyes, the laugh lines, the sallow skin, even the blemishes.

Professional dancers often look older than they really are, especially without make up. My former teacher Oleg looked like he was in his mid thirties, not his early thirties. His wife, Irina, was the real shocker. Although she looked to be in her late thirties, she was actually only twenty-seven. She was younger than I was, which no would have guessed looking at the two of us. So I do have that on the professions.

Most of the other groups filled up entire tables, but I was the only one from my studio there and so I sat alone at a table and had breakfast.

I allow myself to eat whatever I want because I am going to burn off the calories anyway. Even carbs. Saturday I was dancing from about ten thirty in the morning until three in the afternoon. Tell me I didn't burn off my morning toast, I dare you. Also ballroom comps are one of the few times I allow myself to have bacon. Again I figure I'll burn it off too.

The trick at comp breakfast is to eat just enough to get you through the day. There is no lunch break at comp and so dinners are served early, usually at about five in the afternoon. So breakfast has to get you through the entire day. Of course, if you are like me and dancing in the early heats, you can't just stuff yourself. You have to eat just enough to fill you, but no so much that you cramp or get sick. And eating with all that adrenalin pumping through your system isn't so easy either. I had one of those ideal breakfasts that one sees in cereal adds or on the show Friends. I had OJ, tea, plain low fat yogurt, cereal, eggs, and bacon.

I headed back up to the room to finish dressing. I put on my eye make up (NARS eye shadow in nymphea and twisted, NARS liquid liner in Sri Lanka) ,including the false eyelashes. I put on my lipstick ( congo red with brown sisley lip gloss). I dry and spray my hair. ( Think of the movie Hairspray.) I added several layers of glitter to my body and my eyes. Because it was loose glitter, I will shed it all over my partner, the dance floor, and anyone crazy enough to hug me through out the day.

Finally, I put on my pantyhose, my nude leather dance shoes for smooth, and my Betsey Johnson dress. Over the dress, I put on my Victoria's Secret robe. I threw a couple of make up maintenance items into a small bag, and I was ready to go down stairs and meet my partner.

"Do you wanna dance?"

You haven't lived until you've seen a real dance competition. The first time I went, I walked into the ballroom and the entire dance floor was filled with women in tailor made ballgowns swirling to a Viennese waltz. Watching a period film just doesn't capture how stunning it is. Feathers and crystals, deep saturated colors-reds and blues- so as to catch the eye of the judges. This year yellow and orange were particularly popular. Two women had sunflower themed dresses, which brightened the windowless ballroom.

I walked into the ballroom and saw the competitors practicing and suddenly I didn't regret going. I didn't feel alone like at breakfast...

...until I sat all alone at my studio's table and waited for the other three studio dancers to show up.

Taliat showed up very late. Most of the other tables weren't filled. The morning heats are for beginners, those who have only been dancing a few years. Our routines are not exciting to watch, even to other beginners. The more advanced dancers linger at breakfast, chat with former teachers and other students they haven't seen since the last comp, or maybe even enjoy a late sleep in order to be fresh for their first heats. Some of them are practicing solo performances in the hallway. Others are simply sitting in their rooms helping other competitors to get into their costumes, or fix their hair, or spread gossip. The few of us in the ballroom are there because we have to be.

Taliat arrived in time for a few practices dances with his breakfast in a box ( which means he slept late and got to breakfast right before it closed).

The thing about dancing in a comp is that it is a lot like acting in a show, you put in months and months of practice. You go to costume fittings, you run lines, you play with props, you set blocking, you add bits, you remove bits, you have dress rehearsals, you modify costumes and sets. Then after all of this time you go out and perform. All of this effort culminates in a performance that is over in about two hours. And even if the show runs for two months, the preparation takes up far more than the actual performance.

So after two years of dance classes, three different teachers, several different dresses and shoes, steps learned and relearned, steps worked and reworked again, all of that time comes down to one hour of dancing in front of three judges. And no matter how hard you prepare, you always come off the dance floor thinking "That's it? All that effort, for this?"

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